Replete with heroes, villains, swords, and magic, the tale of Irish hero Finn Mac Cool possesses more than enough action and excitement to stand on its own. Not content to simply transplant the story to the stage as is, Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue has pushed the myth into overdrive with a healthy injection of rock n’ roll and in your face attitude.
Finn McCool continues in the vein of previous Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s hits The Saints and The Oresteia, as the performers reinvent a known quantity with humor and panache.
The production unfolds as an epic “battle of the bands”, with each group made up of key players from Finn’s tale. Using varying instruments and styles, each character reveals a piece of Finn’s life, ranging from his birth to his climactic clash with evil fairy The Morrigan and her human conspirator, Goll Mac Morna.
Debra Buonaccorsi’s creative script takes some entertaining liberties with the original myth. She juxtaposes straight storytelling sections with fourth wall-breaking scenes of Finn and his allies milling around backstage with their enemies. Imagine Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker sitting off camera, joking about the irony of cutting off each other’s hands, and you have a pretty good idea of the enjoyable moments that transpire.
Buonaccorsi and Steve McWilliams’ rousing score cuts a swath across a variety of rock styles. There’s rollicking folk-rock, heartfelt acoustic ballads, charging hard rock, and even Pink Floyd-esque space rock. The small cast keeps each number fresh with their constant swapping of parts and instruments; one minute a character might be singing lead, and the next they’re standing in the back providing support on mandolin, accordion, bass, or even tin can. Lamentably, despite the inventive lyrics and the performers’ considerable skill, the vocals were lost amid the guitar wails, bass riffs, and pounding drums in several of the hardest numbers. This dynamics problem is the only area in which the small size of the theater hampers the production; in every other way, the close proximity of the audience is a big asset.
The versatile, talented ensemble compliments the strong score and script. John Robert Keena’s sensitive, inspiring turn as young hero Finn recalls his wonderful performance as good-natured Robbie Fay in Keegan Theatre’s Man of No Importance. As the show’s emotional center, he balances out the loud personalities of the others with a mix of wide-eyed innocence and youthful optimism. Oh, and the dude can sing.
Laura Keena as Finn’s sister, delivers a delightfully trippy performance as Druidess Bodhmal, boasting powerful vocals and hilarious New Age rambling. Buonaccorsi herself makes quite the impression as sneering, despicable rock goddess The Morrigan. Her magnetic appeal increases with every insult and evil wail she hurls at the unwitting audience.
Finn McCool is an edgy, full throttle ride through a colorful keystone of Irish lore. A greater understanding of the Emerald Isle’s cultural history is a cherry on top of the inspired comedy and rocking served up throughout the show. I dare you not to sing along when the cast launches into a scorching punk rock rendition of Danny Boy.
Book by Debra Buonaccorsi
Music/Lyrics by Steve McWilliams and Debra Buonaccorsi
Produced by Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue
Reviewed by Ben Demers
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes with no intermission
Finn McCool continues in the vein of previous Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s hits,